Wycliffe Bible Translators has run the first Faith and Farming workshop in Nigeria, in the town of Lambata. Ten farmers from the Gbari language group spent three days learning about what the Bible has to say about farming, and how to apply those biblical truths practically to their farming techniques.

Commenting on the vision for the workshop, Katharine Norton, who serves with Wycliffe and organised the workshop along with colleague Yunana Malgwi, says: ‘When I came here five years ago I saw that everyone farms, but no-one made a connection between their faith in God and their farms. People were farming in ways that harmed the soil and the environment, and the food and animal products were increasingly filled with chemicals and antibiotics.’

Two of the workshop participants put together a Bible study in Gbari

‘Also, the Church only seemed to take notice of farmers at harvest time when it wanted the 10% tithe. So I wondered, how can the Church support farmers all year? How does our faith in God affect how we farm? What does the Bible have to say about farming and farmers?’

The workshop features 16 teaching sessions, ranging from biblical foundations (Farming in the Bible, Audio Bible studies) to practical subjects (How to make compost, how to grow a dry-season vegetable garden using greywater, seed saving) to topics such as ‘Resolving conflict’, ‘How the Church can support farmers all year round’, and ‘Faith, farming and rest’.

Although many language groups in Nigeria do have the Bible translated into their language (though well over half of the 500-or-so languages in Nigeria have no translated Scripture at all), an issue is getting people to engage fully with their Scriptures. Katharine says: ‘Often they don’t apply the Bible to large areas of their lives. One of the things we teach is that the word of God speaks into every situation and if people are farming then that’s where we need to reach them and show them how the Scriptures can speak to them about their practices.’

Katharine teaches at the workshop

A key aim of this workshop is to help Gbari society realise the importance of farming and what the Scriptures say about farming. Katharine comments: ‘Farming is often seen as a dirty, low-status job that you only do if you can’t do anything else or if you are uneducated. We show that God values farmers and farming, and so should society – after all, we all eat every day!’

The biblical teaching hit home and transformed viewpoints, as the participants spoke of how they now understood what the Bible has to say about farming:

‘As we read Genesis 2 and 3 I learnt that God got Adam to farm in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 2:15). This was so encouraging to me as my people think that farming is a curse as a result of the fall! I now realise that farming is a blessing and that I can serve God as I farm.’

‘I was very happy to read that God planted a farm and that many men and women in the Bible were farmers. This encourages me to go on better with my farming work and not to feel ashamed like I used to. Now that I know God is interested in my farm, I will ask him to bless my work before I plant. Before I used to trust in my own strength and my fertiliser for my farm but now I am trusting in God!’

Katharine hopes this workshop will be just the start of something bigger. ‘We want the participants to take what they have learnt and apply it to their own farms, run with the principles, and teach and encourage others in their language community and churches. This way, what starts from one workshop can have a much wider impact.’

At the end of the workshop, this seemed to have been achieved, as the participants expressed their desire to return home and train others:

‘This workshop was filled with so much good news, I don’t want to keep it to myself like a selfish person so I will share it with my people! When I go back to my area I will train two people from each area so that they can train their people and everyone can learn about Faith and Farming.’

‘After this workshop I will go back to my people and talk in church to tell the men and women that farming is approved by God and he doesn’t look down on it like we do. This will help my people to do their farming work with all their hearts.’

Notes to Editors

1. For further information, call Jeremy Weightman on the Wycliffe Communications Team on 0300 303 1111.

2. Wycliffe Bible Translators seeks to enable all peoples to engage with the Bible in a language that speaks to them best. It does this through a range of activities, including Bible translation, literacy and Scripture use initiatives. Currently, Wycliffe has 363 people from the UK and Ireland serving 486 million people who speak 368 languages in 71 countries. Of the 7,300 or so languages spoken worldwide today, only about 700 have the Bible. Around 1.5 billion people (1 in every 5 people) do not have the Bible in their language. As a result, translation of the Bible into people’s languages is one of the critical needs in world mission, to enable the growth of evangelism and discipleship ministries.

3. Images. You can download the following images to accompany the press release, by clicking on the ‘Image’ link.

Image 1 – Gbari farmers learn from their Gbari farming books

Image 2 – Malgwi teaching on Conflict resolution

Image 3 – Two participants engage with the Bible

Image 4 – Malgwi prepares the ground

Image 5 – Malgwi in planting action

Image 6 – Participants translate Bible study questions into Gbari

Image 7 – Participants study the Bible

Image 8 – Participants study the Bible

Image 9 – Group prepares a Bible study

Image 10 – Katharine teaches the group

Image 11 – Katharine interacts with two of the participants

Image 12 – Map of Nigeria with Lambata and the Gbari region